So I decided to that I would search for a cruise which was in the US Virgin Islands on the day of our actual aniversary. The only cruise ship to be there on the date I wanted was the Caribbean Princess. I read the various reviews on this board and thought long and hard about spending what would be nearly $8000 USD for a two week cruise plus airfare from LA and hotel for one night along with the expenses of nine ports. Nevertheless the romantic in me won out and I put down the deposit last July on the two week cruise on the Caribbean Princess.
I could not have been more pleased with my experience on the Caribbean Princess. It goes to show that the eye of the reviewer may not accurately reflect each person's individual preferences, life styles or even what is bad food to one palate could be delicious to another.
I have traveled on Princess before so I was familiar with their cabins, ships and food. I must admit that the reviews of this particular ship at first gave me pause because most reviewers had more negative than positive things to say about the ship. Then there was the scare in March 2012 when the ship broke down and limped its way back to San Juan for two weeks of dry dock.
And yes, I am a smoker, so I was not happy to hear about the no smoking policy effective January 31, 2012 on the balconies after I had already paid my cruise fare. (to give princess credit they did give me the option of a refund when the policy was first announced) It took me a few days to figure out where the smoking sections were (cause other than the sports bar and casino they are not clearly designated on any ship map) Yes, it is true that they do charge $250 for the second offense of being caught smoking in your stateroom (and no I was not the one who got in trouble) so if you are a chain smoker think hard about cruising with Princess.
The food was good. Yes I did not care for the one dinner I had in the Buffet. I will admit I am a picky eater. The hot dogs at the pool were not stadium quality but the pizza and hamburgers were good. Joe and I had the balcony dining on the night of our aniversary and the food was excellent, the service spotless and the flowers/champagne and deserts included made for a truly unforgetable night. Highly worth the $100 cost to celebrate a special day We ate several mornings in the dining room and while the menu was never different, the service was prompt and the food good. I personally prefered the Palm dining room for dinner (service seemed faster) but the menu was same.
Having learned last summer on the Epic that one can save more than two thirds of the cost of port excursions by booking outside the cruise line, I cannot comment on the Princess shore excursions cause we did not book any. But I did not hear any complaints from other passengers about the excursions other than the costs.
My favorite port was Bonaire as I like to snorkel and the snorkeling there was perfect at Klein Bonaire with Winwood which was a recommendation I got from someone on this board. I also liked of all places Granada and the day we spent at Papillote Estate. Cant say enough about the gardens the food and the soaking tubs themselves. I would say that my least favorite port was probably Aruba but the beaches are wonderful and I just was too tired to enjoy. Also be aware that Smugglers Cove on Tortula no longer has services as the government closed them down about four weeks before we went there. Beach is lovely so just take food and water and your own snorkel equipment
I want to also comment on St John and St Thomas in general. I spent a week there in 1987 for our honeymoon. I have not been back until April 2012 but have been to other islands in the Caribbean in the last 25 years. I was extremely disappointed with St John. Gone is the island I remeber as unpopulated, lush, and well maintained. Cruzan bay St John, while not quite looking like a third world country needs a serious face life and spruce up because the town is really seedy and gone done him. Traffic in St Thomas is horrible in the am, and on St Thomas Princess cruise ships have been put out in the farthest warf on the island. NOT WICO were Carnival gets to put in. So budget more time that you think you need to get back to the ship or to get to or from the Red Hook Ferry if you are going to go to St John (which in my opinion is no longer worth going to) cause it was a close call getting back on the ship in time.
I would go back on the Caribbean Princess in a heartbeat. The service from the waitstaff to the barristas to the cabin attendants were efficient and always plesant. I bought the spa pass for the week and the was never any issues with crowding in the back pool adjacent to the spa. While it may not have the glamor or newness of the Epic and is a totally different experience Princess still by far is the more classy ship line of the three I have been on (NCL and Carnival) so I would recomend the Caribbean Princess. It may not be the most modern ship in Princess's line, and yes, the carpet in someplaces is worn, and the tv's are not new flat screens with interactive services. Nevettheless maybe the better approach is to look at the ship as a classic n older ship with different qualities one cannot find in the newer megaships.